North Korea on Tuesday fined and sentenced American missionary Aijalon Gomes to 8 years of hard labor for illegally entering the country. He could become a bargaining chip in six-party nuclear talks.
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Washington and Pyongyang are likely headed for serious diplomatic talks after North Korea sentenced a US citizen to eight years of hard labor and fined him $700,000 for illegally entering the country.
Aijalon Mahli Gomes is the fourth US citizen to be arrested for illegally crossing the border into North Korea. Last June two television reporters were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor, but released shortly thereafter when former President Bill Clinton visited the country. Over Christmas an American priest was arrested when he walked over the border singing hymns, reportedly protesting human rights conditions in North Korea. He was released 43 days later after he apologized.
Mr. Gomes reportedly crossed over the border on Jan. 25. He was sentenced during a trial on Tuesday. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, so officials from the Swedish embassy attended the trial on behalf of the US. Gomes, who was raised in Boston and became an English teacher in South Korea after graduating from Bowdoin College in Maine, has spoken out strongly against North Korea’s human rights record and is reportedly very religious. Yonhap news agency reports that he was also charged with “hostility” against the communist state.